Climate and resource protection is one of the greatest challenges of the 21st century. Against this background, and with the help of approximately 980 students in China, the FOM University of Applied Sciences conducted a survey on this topic in summer 2020, questioning more than 13,000 people in order to gauge environmental awareness in China.
As the results show, there are areas that are seen by respondents as particularly important and that most closely affect them personally. These include the scarcity of resources (e.g. water), the pollution of soil, water and air, and climate change. If the age of the interviewees is taken into account, the generations Y (aged 24-39 years) and X (aged 40-55 years) are the most environmentally conscious in almost all areas.
The presence of mineral oil or microplastics in products was considered by the respondents as by far the most important factor in the category of “food”, followed by “household products” and “clothing”. In the case of packaging, which is at the center of the environmental policy debate, approval was relatively low.
People who eat meat had higher monthly consumption expenditures for food compared to vegetarians and vegans. It is possible that vegetarians partly spend the money they saved on food on more clothes. The consumption expenditures of vegans on electronic articles were particularly high.
The willingness of the young generation Z (aged 12-23 years) to pay for sustainability was greatest in the areas of vacation/leisure/sport, fashion, clothing and electronic goods compared to the other age groups. These are typical expenditures for young people, but it may also show increased consumer awareness in these areas. Expenditure on mobility, nutrition and energy/living/household was typically highest as consumer spending in the parent generations X and Y. As in most areas, the silent generation (aged 75-99 years) had the lowest spending on sustainable lifestyles.
When it comes to restricting personal consumption for sustainability, that occurred where the income elasticity of demand is highest (electrical goods, fashion and clothing, mobility and vacation/leisure/sports). These were followed by basic needs such as energy/living/household and nutrition, which have a lower income elasticity.
Vegetarians answered all questions about not consuming products of animal origin with the greatest approval, followed by vegans and people without dietary restrictions. Empathy with animals was surprisingly smaller with vegans than with respondents without restrictions in their diet. In the foreground of a vegetarian diet are health and environmental reasons. The lifestyle argument is clearly less important in the decision to eat a vegetarian diet. The decision to be vegan often fails due to a lack of supply in supermarkets and restaurants. If the age of the interviewees is included in the analysis, the animal welfare argument for a vegetarian lifestyle becomes more and more important the younger the interviewees are. The health reasons argument becomes more and more important with age.
FOM University of Applied Sciences is Germany’s biggest private university and has undertaken a cooperative study program for Business Administration with Chinese universities since 2002. It does research on economics, business administration, engineering, health services and other fields.